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TFW you realize the robot you trained is going to take your job

"I trained Facebook's robot writers and I didn't even get a lousy T-shirt."

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Facebook is an enormously successful company that uses software to convince its users to give it content that it can distribute to other users, who will engage with the content and hopefully click on an ad, or at least generate more content for Facebook.

Facebook has recently started employing humans to create some specialized content of its own — summaries of newspaper stories other humans have written. Turns out that working for Facebook in that role — or, actually, for an employment agency Facebook uses to hire people for that role — is not a fun job.

It also doesn’t seem like a long-term job, per Gizmodo’s excellent report. Many of the people Facebook’s contractor hired to do the work last year have already quit or been pushed out. And they think that one day all of those jobs will disappear:

That said, many former employees suspect that Facebook’s eventual goal is to replace its human curators with a robotic one. The former curators Gizmodo interviewed started to feel like they were training a machine, one that would eventually take their jobs. Managers began referring to a “more streamlined process” in meetings. As one former contractor put it: “We felt like we were part of an experiment that, as the algorithm got better, there was a sense that at some point the humans would be replaced.”

Here’s the thing: It would be surprising if Facebook didn’t replace its humans — humans who need things like air, food and rest to do their work — with software that could efficiently summarize news stories. Why shouldn’t it?

Especially when other companies that are nowhere near Facebook’s size have already figured out how to make software that can write entire news stories. Like these earnings stories from Forbes, created by Narrative Science’s robots. Or earnings stories like this one, from the Associated Press, created by robots from Automated Insights.

Those stories are not very exciting! But they do an adequate job of pulling out the requisite information.

So does this headline: “Talladega Superspeedway: 2 Bodies Found at Track Prior to NASCAR Race on Sunday, Reports Says.” Let’s assume that in the future, Facebook won’t need a human to write that one.

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